Evidently, it takes a drone to catch a drone.
Rogue drones are becoming more common and dangerous. Unauthorized drones have been used for everything from disrupting public events and spying on people to interrupting commercial airplane flights.
To say that drone use by an amateur operator or terrorist is potentially problematic would be a gross understatement. Wired Magazine recently ran an article titled “When Good Drones Go Bad” that detailed the problems and dangers posed by weaponized drones and spy drones that are being used by terrorists and other criminals.
Mo Rastgaar is the Engineering professor who came up with the idea for the predator falcon drone while watching a sporting event last year and wondering what would happen if one of the drones flying over the event was doing more than just taking pictures or filming video footage of the event.
Rastgaar thought about ways to deal with a rogue drone that had a bomb or biological weapon attached to it. Rastgaar realized that shooting down or blowing up a dangerous, bomb-carrying drone wasn’t a safe solution. He realized that the rogue drone would need to be caught while in flight and brought down safely and intact. That’s when he came up with the idea for a drone falcon that could catch other drones.
Rastgaar is the director of Michigan Tech’s Human Interactive Robotics Lab. He oversees a team of 9 people who started work on the falcon drone in 2014. The team had a working model for the falcon drone in early 2015 and they applied for a patent at the end of 2015.
The falcon drone catches other drones with a net that can be shot out and retrieved in mid-air from up to 40 feet away from the target drone. Once the target drone is caught it can be transported to a safe place for inspection.
Rastgaar says that the falcon drone can patrol an area and operate on its own or it can be operated by a human pilot from the ground.
Rastgaar’s drone catcher has a number of public safety uses. It can catch spy drones or weaponized drones or it could be used to enforce federal drone regulations by catching unregistered drones or drones that are found flying in restricted airspace.
The falcon drone will not be available to the general public. When a viable production model is ready, it will only be available to police departments and other law enforcement agencies.